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In Lost in Transaction, An Te Liu brings together elements from two projects that take the suburbs as their starting point. Rather than present-day suburbs, Title Deed and Pattern Language look at examples from North America's earliest post-war wave of suburban development. Although their modular, mass-produced designs resulted in the cheapest possible construction for the highest possible profit, they now seem quaint and somehow idyllic when compared to the monster homes and acres of treeless streets that now extend the limits of our cities. But beginning in the immediate post-war period, this model of development literally paved the way for our current highway-based infrastructure, severing housing from the social end economic benefits of mixed-use communities, and ensuring continued reliance on the automobile.
Title Deed (West Wall)
Shown here are artifacts from Liu’s contribution to The Leona Drive Project, a temporary, public exhibition where artists transformed six bungalows slated for demolition in Willowdale, one of the Toronto area’s oldest planned communities. By stripping down the house and painting it a particular shade of green, Liu transformed 19 Leona Drive into a giant Monopoly piece, instantly imbuing it with economic implications and making it symbolic of the real estate market in general. By foregrounding the economic factors at work in the development and redevelopment of land, Liu references the recent housing market crash, which stemmed from corporate greed and individual desire for the Dream Home.
Pattern Language (East Wall)
As the United States’ first mass-produced suburb, Long Island, New York’s now-iconic Levittown functions in parallel with Willowdale and Leona Drive. Here, Liu has taken Levittown’s aerial plan, shrinking and manipulating it into a dizzying wallpaper pattern, bringing the organizational logic of an entire town to a domestic, interior scale. The reflecting and repeating streets and houses emphasise Levittown’s relentless sameness, countering the individuality sought by the houses’ owners and, as in Title Deed, turning it into a symbol of a serial system. Once seen as utopian and ideal, this way of neighbourhood-building has evolved into new versions of the suburbs, which, in turn, may be ready to be replaced by a more sustainable way of planning where and how we live.